How much freedom should teenagers have?

September 13, 2010

Freedom is a tricky issue. Once upon a time, with a toddler attached to each leg, the question was, ‘how do I get five minutes to myself?’ Nowadays, it’s the girls running away from me, as fast as their sickeningly long and gorgeous teenage legs can carry them. 


I completely understand that teenagers need freedom. But how much do they need? I confess I am feeling my way here. The variables seem enormous, between girls of my daughter’s age who are smoothly negotiating their way around London in seemingly effortless fashion, and others who are still dropped off and picked up everywhere by their parents. The boys, meanwhile, are apparently up at all hours hanging out in the dark at the only park which doesn’t close its gates, drinking, smoking and goodness knows what else. Sorry, mothers of boys, but I’m thanking my lucky stars yet again for my lovely girls.

I’ve encouraged my girls for some years to do trips to the village (all of a ten minute walk at dawdling teenage pace), and to go shopping with friends, and to walk instead of being picked up wherever feasible, but I am, admittedly, anxious about a plan Child One has to do a long solo train journey outside London to meet up with a friend. I know she can do it with no problems at all. She’s very mature and sensible. But it’s not her I’m worried about. It’s all the madmen, paedophiles, axe murders and incompetent train drivers she may encounter along the way. Plus it’s outside London which I find intrinsically worrying, as the countryside is full of cows and gets very dark.

I’m sure you never lose the urge to protect your children, no matter how old they are. But there is a point at which protection becomes suffocation. I am constantly struggling not to fall on the wrong side of this line.

Mind you, I was saying to Child Two, if she saw a lady in a burqa tailing her on the station forecourt, not to be at all surprised. She laughed merrily. She thought I was joking.

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  • Addy September 13, 2010 at 6:47 am

    It’s difficult, I agree. I was always one of those worried mums who picked my daughter up from everywhere and once even set the alarm at 5am to pick her up from the nightbus after a night clubbing up in London when she was 18! She is my one and only after all and I had to wait to the Ripe old age of 40 before I had her (so that’s my excuse). I’ve gradually tried to slacken the rope and, of couse, now she is at uni some 200 miles away, I have to accept I must finally let go. I’m not sure how old your oldest daughter is, but a train journey out of London, if staying on the same train, would seem OK, as long as she refuses to engage in conversation with any weirdos and phones you at regular intervals to put your mind at rest.

    • Dulwich Divorcee September 14, 2010 at 7:37 am

      I think Kay is very lucky to have such a lovely, caring mother! It must be really hard to have her so far away now. My child one is 14 so I think it is time for me to allow her a bit of freedom (though I’m tempted to sit in the next carriage along on the train …. but I won’t!)

  • Expat Mum September 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I have a 15 year old boy who will be kept on a fairly short leash due to prior stupidity, and a 17 year old daughter who doesn’t really stray too far. With her I’m always encouraging her to go farther afield as she’s off to college next year and won’t have a clue. Where’s the middle ground?

  • English Mum September 13, 2010 at 8:26 am

    A tricky one this. And one of the main reasons we moved back to Ireland – everything is so much less complicated here – there ARE no house parties and teenagers hanging about on street corners. Still, I have to contend with dropping off/picking up and, inconveniently, sleepovers seem to be the norm (yup, even at 15 – they spend all night playing COD4 and eating and drinking vast amounts of crap).

    I don’t envy you – it’s so hard to strike a balance, although I’m sure you’re doing a great job x

    • Dulwich Divorcee September 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

      Rather sweet that they are still doing sleepovers! Mine are too but I assumed that was a girly thing …. sounds so much less complicated in Ireland, I’m almost tempted to join you xx

  • notSupermum September 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I have the same problem – trying to give my girls some independence whilst keeping them safe. How do they learn to be streetwise unless they are allowed to do some things on their own – but it’s sooo hard to let go.

    We live in a small town but the same dangers are everywhere. Traffic, strangers, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc. My 13 yo is very mature and always texts me to let me know what she’s doing, but my 10 yo is very young for her age and can’t even cross the road safely (daydreaming). It’s a worry.